From using mobile video conferencing equipment to connect geographically isolated students to world-class educational resources, to leveraging the internet to aid in project-based learning, examples of technology’s power to increase student achievement can be seen in every state in the nation, according to the State Educational Technology Directors Association’s (SETDA) annual National Trends Report.
Released on April 2, the 2009 Trends Report, Focus on Technology Integration in America’s Schools, identifies programs that effectively integrate technology to create robust subject-matter content, innovative curricula, ongoing professional development, and diagnostic assessments to facilitate individualized instruction.
The report highlights the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grant program and focuses on how states are using those funds to increase student achievement.
"We are very excited by these promising results," said Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of SETDA. "The report can help guide education leaders and policy makers as they develop programs that will prepare our students for the global workforce. As in business, technology can help develop sustainable programs with short- and long-term academic and economic benefits."
Many of the gains shown in the report directly address the goals of President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Teacher Quality Enhancement grants.
The report highlights success stories that are in line with ARRA goals in several states:
Closing the Achievement Gap in High Poverty Areas: Educators in the Three Rivers School District in Oregon are using mobile interactive video conferencing equipment to connect international students and teachers with the geographically isolated, culturally limited, and financially disadvantaged students in their district. This technology, along with other factors, has helped boost academic proficiency among fifth graders. Reading and literacy scores on the statewide assessment rose from 61.4 percent to 95 percent in one school year. In math, 86.7 percent of students met or exceeded the statewide assessment standard in 2007-08, up from 63.6 percent the previous year.
Addressing Special-Needs Students: In New Jersey, educators in the Wharton Borough School District used educational technology to help seventh grade special-education students plan and design the construction for a new bridge connecting New York and New Jersey. In this task, students examined the relationship between geometry and bridge designs. They used a variety of internet sites to identify the most common types of geometric figures that are used in the construction of bridges as well as to research other valuable information that informed their construction and design strategies. The students won first place for their bridge designs and models during the 2006 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics National Conference. The students competed without the judges’ knowledge of their special math needs. Since implementing this lesson, the middle school’s Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment and New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge proficiency levels have increased to the highest percentage in the district’s history.
Improving Professional Development: In Massachusetts, teachers indicated substantial increases in content knowledge after taking an online professional development program in which courses were taught with an open-source course management system by curriculum specialists and online learning experts. Participating teachers indicated they would take their newly acquired skills and knowledge to teach students in the classroom.
Improving Chronic Low Student Performance: In California, educators used technology to reverse chronic low achievement among the lowest performing sixth and seventh graders at four middle schools. Students enjoyed using technology in a game show/class quiz format for content review. The districts saw dramatic improvements in student engagement and performance, according to the report. Approximately 40 percent of target students moved up one performance band in California Standards Test (CST) scores, essentially accomplishing the two-year objectives in the first year.
"Educators are finding that the use of technology increases student engagement and empowers individualized instruction," said John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association.
"The successes highlighted in the Trends Report show how instructional technology can address teachers’ need for engaging curricula as well as increase access to management and assessment tools to enhance the way students learn and teachers teach."
The implications of integrating technology into all aspects of education extend to real improvements in state economies, according to the report. By increasing high school graduation rates, the report asserts, technology can greatly increase states’ return on investment.
Alabama, for example, increased high school graduation rates by 10 percent after introducing a technology-rich curriculum. Should this trend continue, the state could see more than a billion dollars in additional wealth. According to a 2007 report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, an increase in high school graduation rates could add $1.6 billion to Alabama’s economy.
Classroom technology also increases college attendance rates, the report notes–another potential boon for the economy.
According to the Business-Higher Education Forum and the U.S. Department of Labor, an "estimated 85 percent of current jobs and almost 90 percent of the fastest growing and best-paying jobs now require some postsecondary education."
The report makes the point that technological proficiency itself is also becoming critical to professional success. Digital technologies are transforming almost every industry. In response to the increasing demand by employers for a technologically proficient workforce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce launched the Digital Skills Working Group in 2007.
"A growing proportion of U.S. jobs require at least a basic level of digital literacy, with many of the best jobs demanding increasing levels of digital fluency," said Arthur Rothkopf, senior vice president at the Chamber of Commerce.
Given this growing demand, equipping students with technology skills is tantamount to preparing them for the workforce, the SETDA report says.